Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

South African owners of camera found in sea traced

Barbara Gregory seen posing on the QM2 with the QE2 in the background
Mrs Gregory was seen on the deck of the QM2, with the QE2 behind

A couple who lost their camera when it fell overboard from a cruise ship have been traced after a trawlerman hauled the device from the Atlantic seabed.

Benito Estevez, of Spain, found the camera in his nets with five of the photos still intact on the memory card.

Barbara and Dennis Gregory, from South Africa, were en-route from New York to Southampton on the QM2 in 2008 when they lost their camera in the ocean.

Mrs Gregory said she had never expected to see the camera or the photos again.

"It's literally a dream come true," she told the BBC.

"There's no way we could ever have imagined that this thing would ever turn up again. It sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic."

Mr Estevez caught the camera in his nets off the west coast of Europe.

Somebody spotted dolphins in the water and the two of us jumped up and that was it
Barbara Gregory

He wanted to trace the owners and posted the pictures online.

Speaking through a translator, Mr Estevez told the BBC: "It makes me really happy to see that they have recovered the memories they had lost.

"If it had been any other thing we would have thrown it back into the sea....but these circumstances were different.

"I think it's because of destiny."

'Absolutely mindboggling'

The photographs show Mrs Gregory posing on the deck of a ship, with the now out-of-service QE2 in the background and in another her husband is wearing a woolly tourist hat from Oxford.

The story was broadcast on BBC programme South Today on Wednesday evening and a friend of the couple, who lives in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, was just about to switch off her television when she spotted the pictures of her friends.

Benito Estevez with the Gregory's lost camera
Mr Estevez believed it was destiny that the camera had been found

Mrs Gregory told the BBC the camera dropped into the sea had been the couple's second of their holiday - after the first was dropped and damaged in New York before the cruise.

She said: "Dennis had had the camera strung around his neck because he didn't want to drop the second one.

"Everything was fine until he sat down on a lounger on deck and took it off his neck. Somebody spotted dolphins in the water and the two of us jumped up and that was it.

"It literally bounced off his lap, across the deck and into the water with hardly a splash and it was gone.

"We were devastated. We'd lost every photograph from New York."

The Gregorys, from Edenvale near Johannesburg, were on the QM2 as it joined its sister ship QE2, which was making its last ever transatlantic round trip between Southampton and New York in October 2008.

Mrs Gregory said: "Dennis's dream had always been to sail on the Queen Elizabeth but when he went to book it was fully booked because it was its final voyage. So we settled for the Queen Mary.

"You daydream that it might happen that these pictures are going to pop up somewhere, but you don't think it's ever going to happen.

"It's absolutely mindboggling."

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